The Beijing dialect (simplified Chinese: 北京话; traditional Chinese: 北京話; pinyin: Běijīnghuà), also known as Pekingese, is the prestige dialect of Mandarin spoken in the urban area of Beijing, China. It is the phonological basis of Standard Chinese, which is the official language in the People's Republic of China and Republic of China and one of the official languages in Singapore.
Although the Beijing dialect and Standard Chinese are similar, various differences generally make clear to Chinese speakers whether an individual is a native of Beijing speaking the local Beijing variant or is an individual speaking Standard Chinese.
|Region||Beijing urban districts|
In the classification used by the Language Atlas of China, the Beijing dialect is included in a dialect group called Beijing Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 北京官话; traditional Chinese: 北京官話; pinyin: Běijīng Guānhuà), distinguished from other Mandarin subgroups by the tonal reflexes of syllables that had Middle Chinese stop codas (the so-called entering tone category). In the Atlas, Beijing Mandarin is divided into four subgroups:
In the second edition of the Atlas published in 2012, the Shí–Kè dialects are re-allocated to the Northern Xinjiang subgroup of Lanyin Mandarin, and the Jīngshī and Huái–Chéng subgroups are demoted to clusters of a new Jīng–Chéng (京承) subgroup.
In fundamental structure, the phonology of the Beijing dialect and Standard Chinese are almost identical. In part, this is because the pronunciation of Standard Chinese was based on Beijing pronunciation. (See Standard Chinese for its phonology charts; the same basic structure applies to the Beijing dialect.)
However, some striking differences exist. Most prominent is the proliferation of rhotic vowels. All rhotic vowels are the result of the use of the -儿 /-ɚ/, a noun suffix, except for a few words pronounced [ɐɚ̯] that do not have this suffix. In Standard Chinese, these also occur but much less often than they appear in Beijing dialect. This phenomenon is known as érhuà (儿化) or rhotacization, as is considered one of the iconic characteristics of Beijing Mandarin.
When /w/ occurs in syllable-initial position, many speakers use [ʋ] before vowels other than [o] as in 我 wǒ, and [u] as in 五 wu, e.g. 尾巴 wěiba [ʋei̯˨pa˦].
Moreover, Beijing dialect has a few phonetic reductions that are usually considered too "colloquial" for use in Standard Chinese. For example, in fast speech, initial consonants go through lenition if they are in an unstressed syllable: pinyin ⟨zh ch sh⟩ /tʂ tʂʰ ʂ/ become ⟨r⟩ /ɻ/, so 不知道 bùzhīdào "don't know" can sound like bùrdào; ⟨j q x⟩ /tɕ tɕʰ ɕ/ become ⟨y⟩ /j/, so 赶紧去 gǎnjǐnqù "go quickly" can sound like gǎnyǐnqù; pinyin ⟨b d g⟩ /p t k/ go through voicing to become [b d ɡ]; similar changes also occur on other consonants.
Some of these changes yield syllables that violate the syllable structure of Standard Chinese, such as 大柵欄 Dà Zhàlán Street, which locals pronounce as Dàshlàr.
The tones of Beijing dialect tend to be more exaggerated than Standard Chinese. In Standard Chinese, the four tones are high flat, high rising, low dipping, and falling; in Beijing dialect, the first two tones are higher, the third one dips more prominently, and the fourth one falls more.
The Chinese Northern Mandarin dialect spoken in Beijing had a major impact on the phonology of the dialect of Manchu spoken in Beijing, and since Manchu phonology was transcribed into Chinese and European sources based on the sinified pronunciation of Manchus from Beijing, the original authentic Manchu pronunciation is unknown to scholars.
The Manchus that lived in Peking (Beijing) were influenced by the Chinese dialect spoken in the area to the point where pronouncing Manchu sounds was hard for them, and they pronounced Manchu according to Chinese phonetics, while in contrast, the Manchus of Aigun (in Heilongjiang) could both pronounce Manchu sounds properly and mimick the sinified pronunciation of Manchus in Peking (Beijing), since they learned the Pekinese (Beijing) pronunciation from either studying in Peking or from officials sent to Aigun from Beijing, and they could tell them apart, using the Chinese influenced Pekinese pronunciation when demonstrating that they were better educated or their superior stature in society.
Beijing dialect typically uses many words that are considered slang, and therefore occur much less or not at all in Standard Chinese. Speakers not native to Beijing may have trouble understanding many or most of these. Many of such slang words employ the rhotic suffix "-r", which is known as erhua. Examples include:
Some Beijing phrases may be somewhat disseminated outside Beijing:
Note that some of the slang are considered to be tuhua (土话), or "base" or "uneducated" language, that are carryovers from an older generation and are no longer used amongst more educated speakers, for example:
Others may be viewed as neologistic expressions used among younger speakers and in "trendier" circles:
The Beijing dialect has been studied by linguists including Joseph Edkins and Robert Morrison. There are important dissimilarities between Standard Mandarin and Beijing dialect Mandarin even as Beijing Mandarin's phonology is held to be the same as Standard Mandarin's. 2 Both southern and Mandarin features of syntax were mixed into Standard Mandarin while northern Mandarin is the main basis of Beijing Mandarin and this sets the syntax of Standard Mandarin and Beijing Mandarin apart.
The grammar of the Beijing dialect utilizes colloquial expressions differently from Standard Chinese. In general, Standard Chinese is influenced by Classical Chinese, which makes it more condensed and concise; Beijing dialect can therefore seem more longwinded (though note the generally faster speaking rate and phonetic reductions of colloquial Beijing speech).